Talks ‘constructive’ on Iran nuclear deal but differences remain, U.S. official says

WASHINGTON — The U.S. official working to save the Iran nuclear deal said Wednesday he held “very constructive” talks with key European allies, but could not say if it would satisfy President Donald Trump, the chief critic of the disarmament accord.

Brian Hook, the State Department director for policy planning, said a round of talks in Vienna last week with diplomats from Germany, France, Great Britain and other signatories to the 2015 accord were aimed at fixing what Trump sees as major flaws.

The talks left several issues unresolved, Hook told reporters on a conference call.

Trump has threatened to withdraw in mid-May from the accord, which forced Iran to dismantle much of its nuclear infrastructure, unless European cosignatories revise so-called sunset clauses that allow some restrictions to expire over time.

Trump also wants the Europeans to agree to more intrusive inspections in Iran and find ways to punish the Islamic Republic for its ballistic missile program.

“Where we have agreement, we are capturing the agreement, and where we have differences, we are working to narrow them to see if we can reach an agreement,” Hook said.

The Europeans prefer to address any flaws in the deal with supplemental measures and not begin to chip away at the existing agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Iran was freed from international economic sanctions as long as it complied with the deal. Trump is threatening to reinstate U.S. sanctions unilaterally if his concerns are not met.

—Tribune Washington Bureau

Former Minneapolis police officer charged in woman’s death remains jailed on $400,000 bail

MINNEAPOLIS — The ex-Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in the July shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond made his first court appearance Wednesday, where his bail was set amid a room full of supporters.

Mohamed Noor, 33, remains jailed after Judge Kathryn Quaintance set his bail at $400,000 on the condition that he turn over his passport, surrender his firearms and ammunition and refrain from contacting his partner, Matthew Harrity, the lone witness in the shooting that drew international outrage. Bail is set at $500,000 without conditions.

Noor’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 8.

Noor was arrested and charged Tuesday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Damond, who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home. When she approached the squad Noor, who was sitting in the passenger seat, fired across his partner Harrity, striking Damond in the abdomen. She died at the scene. Noor is no longer employed with the department as of Tuesday, although it’s unclear whether he left voluntarily or was fired.

—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

France’s Sarkozy facing charges over alleged Libyan campaign funds

PARIS — Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation Wednesday over allegations his winning 2007 election campaign received millions of euros from the regime of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, a judicial source said.

Sarkozy is facing potential charges including illegal campaign funding and receiving the proceeds of the embezzlement of Libyan public funds, the source said late Wednesday.

The conservative former president, 63, who has repeatedly and vehemently denied the allegations, was released under judicial supervision after two days of questioning.

He continued to deny the allegations, the judicial source said.

Sarkozy was president from 2007 to 2012. The year he took office, he welcomed Gadhafi to Paris for a state visit.

But in 2011, France and Britain took a lead role in a NATO-led campaign that helped rebels topple Gadhafi and, in October that year, kill the man who had ruled Libya, often brutally, since 1969.

Questions have long swirled about the way Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign was financed — although they did not stop him attempting a political comeback in 2016, four years after losing the presidency to socialist Francois Hollande.

In 2012, investigative news site Mediapart published what it said was a document suggesting that the Gadhafi regime had agreed to co-finance Sarkozy’s election campaign with about 50 million euros ($61.7 million).

In 2016, the site published an interview with a supposed middleman in the transaction who said he had delivered three suitcases full of what he believed to be 5 million euros in case to the interior minister Sarkozy and an associate in late 2006 and early 2007.

Prosecutors launched an investigation in April 2013, but French media reported that this was the first time that Sarkozy was questioned.